How to Translate Languages with Siri on iPhone and iPad

Nov 15, 2017 - 32 Comments

Translate languages with Siri in iOS

Whether you’re a frequent traveler, simply learning a new language, or interacting with someone who speaks in a different language, Siri for iOS now has the fantastic ability to translate between languages on the fly. For example, you can ask Siri to say “I need a taxi ride to the airport” in French, and Siri will not only instantly translate that for you in written text, but also say it aloud.

Essentially you can think of of Siri on iPhone or iPad as a digital translator that is always with you, and it works to translate between English, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, French, German, and Italian.

Try it out yourself, it works really well and is quite fast.

How to Translate Between Languages with Siri Instantly on iPhone and iPad

Think of Siri like your personal translator, it’s super easy to use on iOS:

  1. Summon Siri on the iPhone or iPad by using a button press or Hey Siri voice command
  2. Tell Siri “Translate (phrase) into (language)”, where language is either Spanish, French, German, Italian, or Mandarin Chinese

Translating languages with Siri on iPhone

Siri will instantly translate the phrase into the language specified. The translation is immediately spoken aloud, and also written out in text on the phone. Additionally, there is a little play button next to the translation to play the spoken translation again, so you can easily repeat the translated phrase too.

Replay the language translation with Siri in iOS

You can also ask Siri “How do you say (word or phrase) in (language)”.

Siri will report back the phrase translated into the requested language.

Example Siri Language Translation Phrases

For examples of what you can say for Siri to translate, try saying or requesting things like the following:

  • ‘Translate “I’d like to order the chicken schnitzel” in German’
  • ‘How do you say “I do not want sour cream in burrito” in Spanish’
  • ‘Translate “I need a taxi to the airport in 2 hours” in French’
  • ‘How do you say “this is the best piccata I have ever had” in Italian”
  • ‘Translate “what do you think of iPhone X” into Chinese’
  • ‘How do you say “give me two train tickets to Geneva” in German’

Translate with Siri

The key is to tell Siri specifically at the start of the command either to “translate” or ask “how do you say”, followed by the phrase and the language. If you simply tell Siri a phrase and then follow it up with “in (language)” it will not work properly. For example if Siri starts trying to search the web for something you asked, you didn’t make the right request, or Siri interpreted you wrong, or you’re speaking to it wrong.

Nope

Not all major languages are supported yet with Siri translation, and currently Siri only can translate between English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Mandarin Chinese, but it’s probable that other popular languages will debut in the future. Notably absent are the other major global languages with hundreds of millions of speakers, like Portuguese, Bahasa, Hindi, Japanese, Russian, Arabic, Punjabi, Korean, and others, but it’s quite likely translation capabilities for these other languages will arrive with future Siri updates and iOS versions.

Translating languages with Siri works for some but not all major languages yet

If you’re heading on vacation somewhere but aren’t quite fluent (or don’t speak a lick) in the native tongue, Siri is suddenly your indispensable travel companion. Of course this new Siri translation capability will also be useful for learning foreign languages and just communicating with people who are speak foreign languages, and not just traveling. Surely there will be a handful of kids who discover Siri language translation has made their French homework much easier too… And for those who are using this for educational purposes, don’t forget you can also change the language on your iPhone or iPad or MacA, which may further help you to learn a foreign language by immersing yourself a bit further.

The only requirements for Siri translation is that the iPhone or iPad be running iOS 11 or later and has an active internet connection, either cellular or wi-fi. This means if you’re abroad somewhere, you could grab a local SIM card and use your iPhone with you to translate anywhere you go, or use the translation ability anywhere there is wi-fi. However you use it, this is an undeniably convenient feature and a very welcome addition to iOS and Siri.

Have fun and try it out yourself, it’s pretty great!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks

32 Comments

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  1. Isidore says:

    Well I’m definitely no Mandarin expert, but don’t questions in Mandarin always end in ‘ma’ indicating a question? No ‘ma’ where expected!

  2. Nevin says:

    Specifically, it has to be American English. Oddly, it won’t translate from Canadian or British English yet.

    • ecc says:

      yeah, I’ve known of this feature since 11.0 went public, yet “It won’t translate Canadian English”. It get’s my dictation 100%, word-for-word. Yet, it replies with that error. Very frustrating. It literally has the correct words in text form – just translate that. But no.

    • Louie says:

      And it’s only from english, not into english from any of the other available languages. By the way, when the author of the article listed the languages into which Siri can translate (German, French, Italian and Mandarin Chinese), he forgot one: Siri can also translate into Spanish (pronounced in Castilian style rather than Latin American).

  3. mkummer says:

    Hopefully the German average translation is a little better than the examples, that would be in correct German: „Ich möchte das Hühner-Schnitzel bestellen.“ – Schnitzel is not „die“ but „das“ and Viener is spelled „Wiener“ after the capital of Austria, Vienna, in German „Wien“.

    • Dr.S says:

      chicken translated to german as Chicken is an absolute flop.
      Mein Gott Apple…!

    • nutzer says:

      I totally agree :D

      Da macht sich Apple zum Fallobst! ;-)

    • Louie says:

      I’ve tested with spanish and no, it’s not alwys the best transtation. Also noticeable, the spanish translations are usually read using castilian (Spain) spanish pronunciations rather than Latin american. For example it will read ‘Gracias’ (spanish for thank you) as grah-thee-as (Spain pronunciation) as opposed to grah-see-as (Mexican and Latin American pronunciation).

  4. David Rhodes says:

    It would be easier to learn a foreign language than to understand a Siri translation………….

    • Louie says:

      Yeah. In spanish, for example, they chose to have Siri read the translations with the pronunciation used in Spain. While that is not by any means incorrect, it would certainly feel kind of weird if used while traveling in Mexico or other countries in Latin America.

  5. Bevan says:

    The Chinese translation is actually completely wrong. It didn’t translate iPhone X correctly.

  6. Kent Norton says:

    When I go back to Indiana, I would like it to translate Indianaese language. Also another dialect spoken in Indiana Kentucky Tennessee is Rednekonics which is redneck English

    • Banjo Billy says:

      Siri has a hard time with rural American dialects. I asked Siri “Y’all gon git up der crik ta warsh up? Ain’t ya?” and it just searched the web for me for some gibberish. So apparently some of the American Rednekonics language is just too challenging, but Siri did seem to figure out the Midwestern dialect of adding “dontcha know” and “eh” to the end of every sentence, eh.

      I suppose Siri expects Americans to speak in civilized tongue to translate efficiently to other civilized languages. Yeehaw!

  7. Walter says:

    I seem to remember in Douglas Adam’s books (Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy) there is a Babel fish which placed in the ear translates any language to the user’s. Siri is now a babel fish.

  8. Elva says:

    Siri, won’t translate from Australian English. Any idea when this could happen?

    • Kermo says:

      Odd that Siri can’t figure out all English translations, particularly considering that Australian and British English are the same English as American English except with a few minor differences in accent, spelling and slang…

      You could always change your iPhone or iPad to be American English as the language, then it would translate just fine. For a long time I had mine set differently so I could enjoy the accents of Siri, but then you can now change the Siri accent without doing that.

  9. William Clark says:

    Absolutely bloody useless. Just tells me it can’t translate from my (very refined) English accent. What a waste of space.

  10. Anne says:

    I just discovered that I can’t use the work around on my old ipad ( to translate sites written in another language) on my brand new ipad.

    You have to download a couple of Bing apps.

    One of them is not available in Canada (but is available in the US). This is extremely bizarre.

    Pretty discouraging to put out for a new iPad and find out it can’t do things your old one could.

    I never use Siri. When I get asked to talk to robots on the phone, they never understand me. My iphone has never even once recognized my fingerprint. The ipad, maybe ⅓ of the time.

    AI is overrated.

  11. Terry Wright says:

    Unable to translate from British English yet, what is that all about!

  12. Charles Vickers says:

    Does NOT work with British English so don’t throw away your copy of Translator yet

  13. Nick White says:

    I have just tried using this, OS 11.1.1 iPhone 6 Plus, Siri’s responders with i’m Not able to translate yet

  14. Howard Goodman says:

    Just tried it, does not work with British English. Any idea when it will, as I travel a lot overseas

  15. no way says:

    It’s clear that the problem is that when translating “I’d like to order the chicken schnitzel” in German Siri’s reply should be: “Hey you idiot, Schnitzel is made with pork not chicken!!!!!”

  16. Ian T says:

    In the UK – Siri is not yet able to translate from British English. I confirmed this today and that was the message.

    Presumably, that applies wherever I am in the world

  17. Gorbnar says:

    Siri translates my cat’s meows and we now have quite lenghty, meaningful conversations!

  18. RM says:

    No Japanese?!? Siri is dumber than I thought.

  19. Denis5 says:

    Won’t work from French to any L.

    Siri say, change your main language….

    Propably Iphones are made for US only….

  20. Mike says:

    Waste of time and effort. All you get is “I can’t translate British English yet. Sorry about that.”
    Come on Cupertino – get your poop together.

  21. Sherif says:

    I have just tried using this, OS 11.1.1 iPhone 6 Plus, Siri’s responders with i’m Not able to translate yet

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